By Gloria Larkin
No matter who is elected the President of the United States, the federal government will still be the world’s largest customer. This means that over $450 billion dollars in services and products will continue to be contracted for with large and small businesses locally and nationwide.
Yes, the federal marketplace is in a state of adjustment, and while the new President has our attention right now, this change at the Executive level adds just a factor of change to the equation, albeit subdued in impact for the next 18 to 24 months because of the time it takes for a new budget to go through and be approved by Congress and the White House.
However, there is an opportunity for dramatic change regarding who the winning contractors are from this month moving forward. Cautious businesses are pulling back marketing, sales, business development and capture efforts with a wait and see attitude because of the unsettled nature of government contracting, sequestration, budgeting, the Presidential election and Congressional seats. This is a huge mistake in the federal marketplace, because those companies who “hunker down” will essentially create their own down-turn in sales and revenues, thereby creating a self-fulling prophesy of lowered expectations and poor results.
On the flip side, those companies that instead view these challenges and the resulting change as an opportunity and instead proactively, aggressively market their services and products to the multiple layers of decision-makers involved will have doors opening that had been previously closed.
A supporting factor coming into play right now is the cumulative effect of the surge of retirements of the federal contracting employees. Government Executive magazine estimates that as many as 40 percent of the 36,000 federal contracting officers could retire between 2014 and 2018. We also know that sequestration has reduced the budgets of most contracting offices. Because of these factors, the replacement government contracting workforce is inexperienced, diverse and younger and few trusted relationships have been built between industry and the new contracting personnel. The traditional business development practices of relying on incumbent contracts, leveraging entrenched relationships and buying introductions to contracting officers and program offices doesn’t work any longer.
Instead, taking a disciplined, laser-focused tactical approach right now to sales, marketing and business development targeting these new decision-makers before the capture process begins is how a company (large or small) creates new business opportunities in a changing marketplace. This new, adaptive approach is successful whether diversifying into new agencies, broadening a scope of services, adding new products or seeking to prime more contracts.
Whenever change happens, there is opportunity. Who wins? Those who are proactive with a disciplined sales and marketing approach have a better chance to own a much larger federal contracting market share in the next 12 to 18 months than those who take a wait and see approach.
Gloria Larkin is president of TargetGov and a national expert in business development in the government markets. Visit www.targetgov.com or call toll-free 1-866-579-1346 for more information.